Chicago -- The growing cadre of standards-based cable-modem
vendors bulged further at the National Show here last week.
With Cable Television Laboratories Inc. set to announce
Thursday (June 24) whether more vendors will be certified as meeting the Data Over Cable
Service Interface Specification interoperability protocols, the industry's annual
convention provided the stage for some big-name entrants to join the field and for others
to accelerate their certification strategies.
Telephone-networks giant Ericsson Inc. unveiled its
inaugural cable modem, while Zoom Telephonics Inc. introduced a DOCSIS 1.0 device that it
developed after its April acquisition of bankrupt Hayes Corp.'s modem business.
Separately, Terayon Communication Systems sped up its plans
to get a standards-certified modem to market, quietly showing off a DOCSIS 1.0-based
device that revises its initial strategy of waiting to offer a certified product until an
upcoming generation of the standard.
The mini-crush of modem entrants at a convention that did
not otherwise boast major modem-related developments may signal how vendors are seeing the
impact of DOCSIS certification on the buying decisions of system operators.
MSOs want to begin rolling out certified product directly
to customers as a prelude to direct retail availability.
"Truthfully, some of them are waiting for
certification before making order commitments," said James Treuhaft, North America
sales director for Samsung Telecommunications America Inc.'s networks division.
Ericsson said its DOCSIS 1.0-based "PipeRider"
cable modem, scheduled for October availability, is the first of a "Home Information
Pipeline" product lineup that will eventually include support for cable telephony and
The PipeRider -- with a sleek form factor and available in
several bright colors -- is the first modem based on Broadcom Corp.'s
"3300-series" chips, according to Stephen Rapiejko, director of product
management at Ericsson's Lynchburg, Va., laboratories.
The product's most unique feature may be its
"PipeLock" button, enabling the user to disconnect the modem from the data
network without actually turning it off.
Rapiejko said that although cable modems are touted as an
always-on connection to the Internet, many users power them down at day's end for security
reasons. This leads to a surge in bandwidth demand on the network in the morning, when all
of those users reboot.
He added that Ericsson was promoting PipeLock to operators
as an aid for bandwidth management, as well as a consumer convenience feature.
The product -- which Ericsson will likely have ready for
DOCSIS 1.0 certification testing in the wave after next -- can be upgraded to DOCSIS 1.1
capability supporting telephony once the company gets that certification, Rapiejko said.
Zoom's cable modem should be available for the dry-run
DOCSIS 1.0 testing that begins July 6 at CableLabs in Louisville, Colo., according to Guy
Primiano, director of cable-modem products for Boston-based Zoom.
The modem can be upgraded to DOCSIS 1.1, and it will
support several standards-based local-area-networking options enabled by existing Zoom
products. Those include home-phoneline networking and wireless LAN, which uses the
company's "ZoomAir" wireless-network-interface card that inserts into a slot on
the front panel.
Terayon initially planned to roll out its first DOCSIS
modem once certification began next year for the 1.2 standard, but it later said it would
offer a 1.1-based product instead.
The company found that the competition among DOCSIS-based
product vendors was getting too heated to wait.
Terayon CEO Zaki Rakib said other factors were the delayed
start of 1.1-certification testing until early next year and the growing strategy by major
MSOs to deploy DOCSIS product to new cable-modem customers, instead of continuing to
supply proprietary units.
Terayon plans to enter a modem into 1.0 certification
testing "as soon as possible," and to submit its cable-modem-termination system
for DOCSIS qualification later this year, he added.
Rakib said that besides being able to offer customers both
proprietary and DOCSIS-based product, having a 1.0-certified product would give the
company more credibility once it begins offering the advanced DOCSIS 1.2 modem.
Modem silicon vendors were also busy.
Libit Signal Processing Ltd. displayed its
"proof-of-concept" PCI-interface modem card, incorporating a host-based modem
design that will run on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating-system platform.
Libit had been working with Intel Corp. on a possible
specification for CableLabs covering the host-based concept, which would cut product costs
by moving as much functionality as possible from the modem's components to the processor
and random-access memory of the host.
The host, in this case, would be a computer or an advanced
Libit vice president of sales Jacob Tanz said the company
had told CableLabs that it would display a host-based solution at the show.
"This demonstrates how quickly one can bring a
host-based product to the set-top or a PC [personal computer]," he added.
Libit also displayed a new set-top-box reference design for
the Microsoft TV platform, which incorporates Libit's embedded cable modem into a
second-generation set-top design from ATI Technologies Inc.
Libit and Broadcom are the only two silicon vendors so far
to supply modem chips to vendors that have won DOCSIS certification. Broadcom, like Libit,
also announced that it will work to support the Microsoft TV platform -- a strong
endorsement of the notion that vendors believe operators will be using that platform.
"Microsoft has taken a pretty active role in pushing
its platform as an open platform," Tanz said. "We are supporting
that."ATI's design includes its "Rage XPERT XL" 3-D and video-graphics chip
and its "Rage Theater" video in/out companion chip.
In other modem-related news, Samsung announced an order by
Canada's Le Groupe Vidéotron Itée for 10,000 of its "InfoRanger" DOCSIS
1.0-based modems for immediate deployment in the Montreal market.
Treuhaft said Samsung was also working on enhancements to
its DOCSIS 1.0-based product, including a universal-serial-bus connection and a PCI-card
(peripheral component interconnect), embedded version that can be software-upgraded to